Catherine (Cat) McLaughlin, the NFU’s chief animal health and welfare adviser, has been appointed as the new chair of the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance.
Formerly deputy chair of the organisation, she takes over from Gwyn Jones, who has stepped down after six years in the role, with NOAH chief executive Dawn Howard appointed as new deputy chair.
The elections took place at RUMA’s annual general meeting in London on March 4. Ms McLaughlin, who is also a director of AMTRA (Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority), said she was stepping into the chair’s position at a time of emerging challenges.
The agriculture and food industry alliance has played a leadership role in improving antibiotic stewardship and driving down antibiotic usage across the sectors, not least pigs. Overall livestock industry antibiotic usage has dropped by 53% since 2014, with pig sector usage having more than halved since 2015. The 2018 figure of 110mg/PCU puts the sector is well on track to achieve its 2020 target of 99 mg/PCU.
Through the RUMA Targets Task Force, the livestock industry is currently working on reaching a number of sector-specific targets for reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use for the next four years by the end of 2020. The pig sector is represented by NPA chairman Richard Lister and Pig Veterinary Society president Richard Pearson on the task force. The new set of post-2020 targets will be released by the end of the year.
Ms McLaughlin said: “Over the past six years, the UK livestock industry has secured remarkable progress in voluntarily improving antibiotic stewardship, halving use to achieve some of the lowest sales in Europe both overall and of highest-priority Critically Important Antibiotics.
“However, there’s more to do. New challenges are emerging all the time – including resistance to other medicines such as anthelmintics, novel scientific research that will inform changes in practices, and rapidly-evolving political, climatic and social environments.
“Steering the livestock sectors through this will continue to be RUMA’s remit. I look forward to bringing my knowledge and experience – alongside that of my new deputy chair Dawn, the members of the RUMA board and the Independent Scientific Group – to help the livestock industries face these challenges.”
Ms McLaughlin paid tribute to ‘transformational’ leadership of Gwyn Jones over the past six years, which has helped the UK take a global leadership position in voluntary stewardship of antibiotics in agriculture.
Mr Jones has been co-opted onto the RUMA board for a handover period, to help the delivery of a number of projects, including the new antibiotic use targets 2021-2024 and discussions with the newly-formed Food Industry Initiative on Antimicrobials (FIIA).
“We’re delighted to be retaining his expertise during this period,” added Ms McLaughlin.
New deputy chair Dawn Howard, who is chief executive of NOAH, said she was honoured to take on the role and looked forward to working with Ms McLaughlin and other new colleagues at RUMA.
“My ambition is that we continue to deliver and build on our success in raising the standards of responsible use of medicines for the benefit of farm animals in the UK,” said Ms Howard.